Three lawmakers representing Hardin County will hold a town hall meeting in the next few weeks to discuss the state’s embattled pension system.
State Sen. Dennis Parrett is working with state Reps. Tim Moore and Jim DuPlessis on the town hall. The time, date and place still are to be determined, but Parrett said it might be early October.
He said they’ve been receiving calls and questions, and he thought a public meeting would be an easier way of reaching more constituents.
The discussions around the state’s pension system ramped up Monday after a consultant group hired by the state released its recommendations on how to fix the system. The state is facing at least a $33 billion unfunded liability and Gov. Matt Bevin plans to call a special session later this year to address the issue.
Part of the group’s recommendations included raising the retirement age to 65 and switching some state employees to a 401(k)-style plan.
Parrett said he hopes to bring state officials and members of the consultant group to the forum to help answer questions.
“We want to make sure people have a good understanding how we got here,” he said.
The public meeting will be a way to get information to constituents, Parrett said.
“We owe it to them,” he said. “It’s their retirement. This is their future. They have every right to be upset, concerned and worried.”
DuPlessis said the meeting will be a chance to let voters know the recommendations were steeper than what he and other lawmakers want to do.
“I feel like people need to hear from us on what we are going to do,” he said. “And this gives them a chance to hear from the people that are looking at doing something.”
He said a number of state employees are retiring now to preserve benefits. However, Bevin and leaders in the General Assembly have said any bill passed won’t have an emergency clause, meaning it won’t go into effect immediately, so those affected will have time to decide if they want to retire.
“Let us pass this bill and if it affects you in a negative way, you’ll have plenty of time to get out,” he said. “If you are doing a good job as a teacher, I want you to hang (around). If you are one of our better police officers, I want you to stay.”
DuPlessis said he’s heard from constituents who are nervous about the future.
“You are talking about a group of 140 people in Frankfort that can make a huge difference to their future, so people are scared about that,” he said.
Voters who have reached out to him are not concerned about the pension going dry, but rather about the changes the legislators could make, DePlessis said. Converting accrued sick days to increase pension benefits and raising the retirement age also are key concerns he’s heard.
DuPlessis said he doesn’t want to affect people who are in their late 40s or early 50s who soon are retiring.
“They’ve already made plans,” he said.
In fact, if he had a magic wand, he said he only would make changes to the pension plan for future hires and new employees.
“I’m willing to make structural changes, if that’s what it took to save our pension,” he said.
Moore compared the consultant’s reports to a home inspection. The group has released three reports analyzing the state of the pension system.
“It provides a snapshot of where we are,” he said.
Legislators will take the reports and recommendations to determine how to fix the problem, Moore said.
“We are going to honor and keep the faith with those who are in the pension system, whether current retirees, soon-to-be retirees or future retirees, even if it’s a person being hired today or tomorrow,” Moore said. “We are going to keep the faith.”